Lesotho: (Report updated August 03, 2015)
A Sisters of Charity of Ottawa (Lesotho Branch) and SARID initiative
Lesotho, a poor country in Southern Africa - located on a high plateau, experiences extremes of temperature with below freezing temperatures in winter and very hot temperatures in summer. Higher altitudes are snow bound for most of winter. People mostly live in un-insulated and un-heated structures.
With few resources and/ or fossil fuels most of the heating in winter is with imported fossil fuel such as paraffin or imported electricity. Electricity is imported from South Africa at unaffordable and exorbitant price for a poor country.
The building in the pictures above and below, a home for the elderly, was built by unskilled villagers and high school students, in a matter of months - after they were trained by SARID's architects and engineers. It has passive heating and cooling features and it is warm in winter and cool in summer.It has thermal mass and it utilizes that property to store sun's heat during winter. Most of the insulation is waste recycled material that would have been burnt as trash. It also utilizes a solar geyser to heat the house, during colder sub-zero temperatures,and also provides hot water for showers. The home houses four elderly people, and has an attached toilet and a kitchenette. Electricity is through Solar PV, thus making the building a zero energy structure for most of the year.
Besides the economic ramifications of not importing fossil fuels or electricity, which money can be directed towards economic development - for the common man the energy cost are crippling. The monthly electricity bills very often average 20% to 25% of one's salary during winter months. Those cannot afford heating that population is at greater risk of premature death from the cold - especially the young and the elderly and those living in higher elevations which see below freezing temperatures for most of winter.
Lesotho is mostly treeless because of poor rainfall, geology, deforestation in the past for firewood, and lack of a re-planting regime. Wood is not available and would prove far more expensive as it would have to be imported. Hence people in these parts generally resort to masonry construction which is a poor choice given that masonry structures are poorly insulated - or very expensive to insulate.
Given these issues in December 2014 SARID proposed to the Sisters of Charity Ottawa (SCO) to build a prototype structure which would be a non-wood, non-combustible (excepting for the roof), reinforced concrete structure, and which would be cheaper and comparatively more energy efficient. Walls above are only 30% concrete - the rest approximately 70% of the wall is made of waste and recycled material. The walls have an average insulation value of R-28 .
Further the building type would rely heavily on locally available building materials and tap into the large unemployed and unskilled population as a labor resource. It is anticipated that these practices would in the long term create employment opportunities in the construction sector and supporting industries. Lesotho would engage, mobilize and leverage its internal economy as opposed to relying on foreign aid and imported technology and value added goods and services.
SARID firmly beieves that poor countries can only improve their economy, and provide their poor with adequate shelter, through self reliance, by utilizing indigenous resources, by improving upon and modifying traditional methods of construction, and by creating new cottage industries that provide innovative construction material and recycle waste whenever and wherever possible.
Imported solutions from western countries are very often not tailored to the needs of poor countries such as Lesotho, and are unaffordable. They very often make the countries dependent on imported goods and end up primarily benefiting the exporting economies and lending institutions.
See video below for more images of the process and completed building.
SARID has been for years building such structures in many countries and has been able to introduce a more affordable structure type ( see our website). It has been compromised only by a lack of resources, research and development (R&D) funds, skeptics, and much needed donor support.
The proposed building type for Lesotho represents a modest breakthrough not only for Lesotho but also for many poor countries in the world. The process may need to be tweaked to adapt to the country where structures are being built - but essentially it will lower the construction cost of buildings regardless of its geographical location. This has been the case in Haiti, Pakistan and Bangladesh and in New Orleans. The process can be adapted for seismic as well as high wind and tornado zones.
In Lesotho construction cost of future units are expected to be 30% cheaper than comparable structures such as commonly used masonry or other competing structure types, and 70% cheaper over the life of the project - due to savings in heating, cooling and reduced maintenance and upkeep of structures.
SARID/ SCO team started by converting a small storage space into a vocational center - in the hope of teaching
the local volunteers building skills. A small investment was made on mostly hand tools. The first batch of volunteers ended up building the prototype over a 6 month period. Most of these volunteers had only secondary school education, were previously unemployed, and had little or no prior experience in construction. After training the volunteers had learnt carpentry skills, use of hand tools, and other building /construction skills. Seeing the enthusiasm of the volunteers SCO decided not only to provide free training but as an incentive also provided food and a stipend. The hope is that the skills learnt will improve
their chances of employment in the construction industry and perhaps make them capable of building a home for themselves.
The proprietary technology, intellectual property of SARID, was offered at no charge to SCO.
The structure is very well insulated, with an average heat resistance value of R-28 in the walls, and has utilized some 4,000 recycled waste polystyrene (Styrofoam) lunch boxes as insulation.
Currently these EPS ( expanded polystyrene) lunch (takeout)boxes are burnt, considered trash, causing an irreversible ecological damage, ozone depletion and contribute adversely to global warming. The above picture is typical how the lunch boxes are burned and disposed off. The building has thatch roof, sprayed with a fire retardent, and has an average heat resistance value of R-30. The thatch is also occasionally treated as waste material and burnt as well.
SARID is looking into other waste to recycle and incorporate within future structures and has done so in other instances........
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Please click here to see a video of the process and completed interiors ( This video is an mp4 file. It is user friendly - you may pause, stop and play the video as you please)
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